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Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Village Buzz - Police Dept. Elimination?

Germantown, Police, Quality of Life, Village Buzz

Among the potential cost-cutting changes suggested by at least one member of the Village Board was the elimination of the Germantown Police Department by replacing it with a Washington County Sheriff's Department contract.  This was thought to be a way in which the budget numbers could be lowered without seriously affecting village safety.

Jackson is in the midst of just such a decision-making process and might serve as a 'test tube' for Germantown to observe.  Pewaukee is another such community and it is also nearing a decision involving a contract with the Waukesha Sheriff's Department.

The Washington County Sheriff has delivered a proposal to Jackson for nine deputies to patrol the community with a cost proposed at $1.18 million.  That is contrasted with the village's current department that has twelve officers on its force with a proposed 2010 budget of $1.38 million.  The obvious savings would be $200,000 for the first year.

The estimated savings seems to be simply the elimination of three sworn officers to obtain a $200,000 budget cut.  That amounts to a savings of approximately $67,000 per officer position eliminated.  That seems reasonable since people are the bulk of the cost borne by any community for policing.

There are concerns, however, with such a decision being taken.  The community would lose the ability to directly influence its policing function.  The Sheriff will control what does or doesn't occur in the community and that position is answerable only to county superiors.  Costs will continue to escalate since the county is no more insulated from inflation than the village, and there is the potential for cost-shifting from other areas of the county's budget to the backs of the citizens of Jackson.  Finally, unless the Jackson Police Department is poorly run, there has to be some exposure to slower response times or limited response in times when there is more than a single event underway.  There are 25% fewer sworn officers available.  Overtime is not avoided, and might well be exacerbated.

The apparent bottom line, so far as I can see, is that the community loses its ability to directly control its policing function, risks a reduction in service levels and has no assurance that any apparent savings will continue down the road.

That trade-off doesn't compute for me.

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